Episode 218: Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy




Episode 218: Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy

Britta may be the worst but Chang is a drag on the show.  His slow mental deterioration throughout the second season was a bane on the show. The writer’s rarely utilized him correctly and he overtook the Shirley pregnancy plot line that was meant to explore Shirley’s character.  Maybe that’s why “Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy” seems like a pedestrian episode. 
“Custody Law” opens with a make-shift baby shower for Shirley that’s arranged by Annie.  Some gifts are given to Shirley and Andre – clean water for the future nuclear wasteland, ethnically representative dolls, and random items from Jeff’s coffee table – and diverse food is eaten. Shirley and Andre inform that group that regardless of whom that father
is the baby will be raised by them much to Chang’s disappointment.  Britta asks Troy and Abed about their new friend Luka and is rebuffed by both.  Annie
and Pierce also disappear until the end tag – an uncommon event during season 2’s
group building.  I enjoy when a show can leave out main characters from an episode if they don’t fit into the script.  Or the actors were busy that week of shooting so they were written out. I choose to believe the latter.
Britta drops by Abed’s dorm to flirt with Luka only to be antagonized by Troy and Abed to leave. After some mashing of artists and songs to entice Luka, Britta hands Luka her number as he departs.  Troy and Abed plead with Britta not to bang Luka only to dump him and reveal too much information about them.  But that’s in Britta’s nature:  to ruin things.  She’s a buzz kill, a fun vampire; she doesn't suck fun, she just sucks.  The ever
stubborn Britta of course hooks up with Luka and attempts to discover the emotional
pain within him.  Unfortunately, Britta discovers that Luka is a war criminal from the Balkans and now must inform Troy and Abed.  Even though Britta tells them
about Luka’s past, they ignore her because she stole Abed’s Kick Puncher DVD.  It’s a flimsy reason to ignore her but all is forgiven when they ask Luka about his past. 
What do we know about Ben Chang?  We know he’s crazy, we know he drags down
plots when he’s heavily featured.  Don’t let me finish.  I may be placing my ire on this episode because I’ve seen past this episode and what really becomes of Chang.  Maybe it also has to do with how sitcom-y the plot feels.  Shirley pressures Jeff to have Chang sign a Forfeiture of Parental Rights form to absolve him of any responsibly of the baby.  Didn't Shirley just learn that she uses guilt as a weapon in “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking?”  Instead of having Chang sign it, Jeff sees a way to get rid of Chang from his apartment. Hasn't Jeff learned to value his friends instead of being a crafty jackrabbit?  This leads Chang to try to present himself as an actual human – like in season 1 – and it doesn't work.  Andre talk about how parenting is more than just being there only further exacerbates the situation and leads to Chang kidnapping some kids.  After some jail room talking, the characters learn their lesion and attempt to put Chang away for life.  Chang may be a terrible nuisance, but the malice displayed by Shirley and Jeff is dour for those characters.

Two separate stories.  Two separate lessons learned.  The only common theme is ignoring a friend's warning or request because you'd rather just play a video game or remove someone from your apartment.  That doesn't make for an upper tier episode of Community.

Stray Observations

  • Funniest moment: As Britta discovers that Luka committed genocide in the Balkans the “sad trombone” sound is played only to continue since it is Luka’s next door neighbor playing music.
  • “Hit me with your genie’s bottle,  rub it all over me.”
  • Britta’s hilarious flirting technique included asking why Luka is so good at video games
  • Jeff “Nipple Play” Winger has nipple guards for running.  Olympic athletes use them.
  •  Abed: “We have to go, Luka is showing us how to break the collective will of an entire village by killing their livestock and burning their crops.

    ‚ÄčBritta: “That sounds awful!”    Troy: “Ugh.  Girls are so un-desensitized.”

  • Chang calls Jeff “El Jefe” when greeting him in Spanish.
  • I wanted to see “Catfish” but Britta ruined that for me.
  • I love the music when Britta attempts to tell Troy and Abed about Luka.  It reminds me of “Conspiracy Theories”

On the A.V. Club – http://www.avclub.com/articles/digital-estate-planning-the-first-chang-dynasty-in,73676/#comment-759552263 (page 710)



  • Hit me with your genie's bottle…. 
    I actually like half of Chang in this episode. I liked him living with Jeff, and that is perhaps because he has chemistry with everyone. "Why do I have to keep confiscating saws?" It was also horrifying to see him as a Leave It to Beaver parent.

    I guess I only remember the good things about the episode. I see this one as a Britta episode, not a Chang one. I love how they discuss what she does to their friends. "He's so much worse than tall Kyle!"

  • i always thought it would be hilarious if jeff and shirley had sent chang to prison.

  • And if that's the last we saw of him, I wouldn't mind. 
    As I said earlier, I think that the creators of the show don't understand the Chang hate because they hang out with the nice Ken Jeong all day.

  •  "Chang calls Jeff “El Jefe” when greeting him in Spanish." That's a callback to Jeff calling himself Jefe (Boss) in the Pilot when he was pretending to be a tutor.

    I love Troy's “Ugh. Girls are so un-desensitized.”

    That's all I got for this one.

  • I HATE this episode. Like, seriously seriously hate it. It gets absolutely nothing done (in fact, almost every character REGRESSES), it's not that funny, and the ending is completely wrong for an episode of Community…almost forced, in a way. Even the ostensibly nice ending to the Britta plot only serves to blame her for everything, even when Troy and Abed spent the entire episode being incredibly hostile to her!

    I'm sorry..bad emotions. In any case, I really enjoyed readin your review. I give it 10 Ni Haos In This Hizzy out of 10!

  • I at least partly agree with this. I rated "Custody Law" lowest of any episode because it finds a way to be mean to so many characters, especially Britta (and as I've said a few times, it took awhile for Britta to really come back from just how low the show seemed to view her here, even if it allowed her to be funnier in a broad way).

    There are just so many other ways they could have gone with Chang, too, then just "How crazy and Outside Society can this guy get?" without even losing most of his best jokes. But that's fairly well worn territory in our discussions by now, as well.

    You make a good point, Blue Light, about how even the structure is kind of pulled under. Similarly to "Competitive Wine Tasting," it's like they thought actually going somewhere with the stories might ruin the joke? (Or maybe they were just exhausted from all the concept episodes and letting off steam, either way it's below what we expect from Community.)

  • I'm glad you see Britta for what she is here. The Ganzification of Britta started happening around here after Hilary Winston's more adult reign with her.phrasing. Gillian is great, sure, but she's always great.

  • Britta is the MVP of this episode, and it's not even close. It's a powerhouse of a performance from beginning to end. 

  • I really don't care for this episode, but I agree wholeheartedly with this. Britta for the win!

  • Next reviews
    Since Community is coming back, let's finish this bitch up. All you people who have a review listed below, work on it now and if you can post it early, let me know. It's good we all know when the review is going to be posted so we can anticipate reading it and commenting. 
    Evil Jeff: 
    Critical Film Studies
    Competitive Wine Tasting
    Paradigms of Human Memory 
    Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts
    A Fistful of Paintballs
    Eric the Unregistered: 
    For a Few Paintballs More

    Edit: Thanks for jmunney and glaz for finding Tuna.
    So who's going to take Competitive Wine Tasting? (Or is Uthted here?)Offer a defense as to what's considered the worst episode of Community? Or just bash the hell out of it for fun? We'll also need someone for Fistful as well. 
    Here's a list of all who have done an episode:
    Newly Registered Random, Capt. Blicero,  LloydBraun,  blue_light_88,  SBT,  Loki, snow, sll03, Tereglith, Janine, Occams, Narrator, glaz, walking NPR, Affrosponge, violincatherine, fun, Evil Jeff, Uthted?, Dave, Tuna?, UGNE 

    If you are not on that list, consider yourself a candidate. Looking at who's been posting and participating in the Community discussion, how about Barnito? SG Standard? Hector? LPH? jmuney? roare? digifreak? Reuebles? Or Craig J. Clark, who can dust off his old review and add to it? Someone step up! It's not like there are ardent defenders of Wine Tasting who will tear you down for not writing a good review.

  • You know what?  I'll take Wine Tasting.  I've got a few things to say about that episode.

  • I could kiss you on the mouth.

  • Oh, thank you so much. I was going to step up and do it if nobody else did, even thought I would have loathed every second I spent watching or thinking about that episode. 

  • tuna responded to my email. he's down to cover fistful of paintballs on 1/28.

  • That's great. Thanks!

  • Commentary bites

    -Andy Bobrow looked up the African dish mealie pap and the prop department actually made it. Jim Rash really ate it in every take.
    -Gillian guesses that writers write for the Dean starting with his outfit. Bobrow says that's how he starts his day–"who am I today?"
    -They blazed through Britta-Lukka's apt scene because Gillian had to get to the TCA awards.
    -Judd Apatow stopped by during shooting. Tim Tebow and John Legend dropped in once as well.
    -In original draft, Britta was in a poetry class with Lukka. Bobrow wrote poems with double entendres.
    -Jeong's takes end up on the editing room floor more than anyone because he experiments a lot and ruins takes.
    -Gillian and Jeong can wear each others' shoes. Jeong wears sneakers with velcro.
    -Malcolm Jamal-Warner gave Yvette a thank you gift whey they wrapped for getting him the job.
    -Green kerchiefs joke was Hilary Winston's idea. The joke had to be explained to everyone.
    -Blame Megan Ganz for spoiling Catfish
    -The tag was originally supposed to end with Jeff handing Britta a birthday card and she opens it to find everyone had already left the room, but they decided it was the wrong time of year for Britta's birthday.

  • Probably some Yvette Jesus Thing

  • Apparently, the dish is actually called oblayo in Ghana ("mieliepap" is the South African name for it) and the flag Annie waves is Zimbabwean. On the authority of Wikipedia, so you know it's true.

    Not as cool a fun fact as Jim Rash eating it every take, though. Man, I need some Jim Rash back in my life….

  • I don't hate this one as much as I'm supposed to, I think because I block out the Chang story and just remember the Britta half.  And the Britta half is pretty darn funny.  This episode is certainly guilty of not advancing the characters' development in any significant way, but it's one that if I just sit back and let myself enjoy the funny, works pretty well.

    That said, I still find it odd this is the one they showed at Paleyfest.  It's notthat level of good.

  • I always thought they just showed whatever episode was airing next. They showed Urban Matrimony this year, right?

  • Ooooh maybe. That makes sense.  Unfortunate timing

  •  I'm with Walking NPR here – every time I think about this episode I forget Chang is even in it. It's a shame the whole thing is such a mess, because the Britta stuff is gold, especially her genie's bottle dance.

    That being said, I find the idea of mining comedy out of genocide odd – come to think about, Community hit a streak of weirdly inappropriate humor right around that time (Jeff and Shirley conspiring to keep Chang in jail, and especially Troy pretending to have been raped in "Wine Tasting" are among the lowest of the low the show has ever produced).

  • It's not like the episode was without potential (well, there was no way to make Chang goes to prison good, but the other plot had possibilities), but it's just so weirdly executed that I'm not sure what the writing room was even going for.

  • I felt that way about the stuff in "Spanish 101" as well. The pinata for the guy who got beaten to death.  I guess there's something to be said for a humor that acknowledges such dark shit exists and how unprepared we are to deal with it. But there's also a really black cynical streak in Harmon that appears whenever a joke isn't seemingly re-molded into something more relevant to the characters and fitting their somewhat brighter worldview. (I imagine a lot of his first drafts have more nasty tendencies in them, not that he doesn't deserve full credit for molding those into something more complete.)

    I don't think a joke like that sinks an episode, but they tend to come in the episodes that are already the most bitter-edged IMO.

  •  That pinata stuff was at least better integrated with the plot, because it showcased just how shallow and ignorant Shirley and Annie were.

    It's odd that people think of S3 as inconsistent and all over the place (I actually think it was pretty tightly controlled and structured), when the back half of S2 flailed so much worse.

  • I know I should be bothered by that.  I know it's a problem a lot of people have with the episode, but it doesn't really bother me.  Perhaps it's too much time spent in the ER, but as principled as I am about not liking blue humor, my sense of black humor is pretty well (overly?)-developed. 

  • Well, you're not just with Walking NPR. I said the same thing. SG Standard said Britta was the star. I'm glad I'm not the only one alone in thinking this. 

  • Tuning Chang out is impossible for me.

    I like how in the very next episode Jeff invites Chang to Abed's b-day party.

  • johnshinobi

    The only ep of Community I can barely sit through.